Throughout the US, most people have heard of the holiday Cinco de Mayo, which in Spanish means May 5th. To many, it’s a day to eat tacos and sip margaritas, and while authentic Mexican food is always a delicious celebration, there are several interesting facts about Mexico and Cinco de Mayo history that aren’t commonly known in the United States. This year, learning about what Cinco de Mayo celebrates and reading up on Mexico history facts will give you a true appreciation for the holiday and Mexican culture.
Because Cinco de Mayo is the most well-known Mexican holiday in the United States, some mistakenly assume it’s a celebration of the country’s independence from Spain. However, if you look up Mexico history facts, you’ll learn that Independence Day in Mexico is September 16. This day commemorates when the country declared itself independent and began fighting against Spain. One of the most interesting facts about Mexico is that the Independence Day celebration includes a reenactment of the grito, the cry for independence, that Miguel Hidalgo, one of the leaders of the movement, shouted and proclaimed in 1810.
So what does Cinco de Mayo celebrate then? Cinco de Mayo history celebrates the victory of Mexico over the French during the Battle of Puebla. After most revolutions for independence around the world, new countries struggled to form their identity, and Mexico went into debt with countries in Europe. France invaded Mexico, hoping to establish another colony, and set their eye on the center of the country, on a town called Puebla. They expected an easy victory, but after a day of fighting the army of indigenous and Spanish descendants, the French admitted defeat, and in a few short years, completely withdrew. Of all the various Mexico history facts and events, when it comes to what Cinco de Mayo celebrates, the victorious battle with the French is a minor yet important one.
Despite this historic win, one of the most important Cinco de Mayo facts to note is that it’s not a federal holiday in Mexico. While it’s become a popular celebration in the US, banks and businesses in Mexico stay open as usual, and if you look at how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico, you’ll see that it’s a typical day for most families. In the city of Puebla, Cinco de Mayo history is important since it’s the site of the battle, so if you want to see how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico, visit the city of Puebla where you’ll be able to watch reenactments and military parades.
When you realize that Cinco de Mayo history isn’t celebrated throughout Mexico in the way it is in the United States, it seems curious that so many people in the US would be familiar with the holiday. In the 1960s, Chicano activists promoted the holiday as a way to celebrate Mexican heritage in the US. The battle was mostly fought between indigenous Mexicans against the European invaders, one of the Cinco de Mayo facts that makes it a reminder of strength and heritage. Today, there are large celebrations in cities with mariachi music, traditional dances, and parades, showcasing the diversity and beauty of Mexican culture.
If you look at how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Mexico, you’ll see that it’s a small, regional holiday that commemorates a battle against the French. However, in the US, it’s become a celebration of Mexican history and heritage, and while it’s easy to dig into some Mexican food on this date, it’s also important to learn some interesting facts about Mexico to understand its rich and diverse history. These Cinco de Mayo facts will help erase some of the assumptions around the holiday and give you an appreciation for the history behind the celebration.